Editorial: Mayor’s walls of shame

The Democratic Alliance mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, may have some good ideas about running the metropolis, but his recent declaration of war on graffiti is not one of them.

First, it looks all too much like the “clean-up” operation the ANC employed when it was in charge of the city – which then led to the forced and probably illegal removal of street traders.

This was done in the name of the “world-class African city” that Jo’burg has trumpeted itself to be – except it was having trouble with the “African” part. Which African city does not have street traders of all kinds? And why should they be banished to the margins and treated like trash – as if our proudly African city is aspiring to be like neat-as-a-pin Vienna?

Second, for Mashaba to take this line on graffiti is to be culturally cretinous. It’s a form of public art that should be allowed – few residents of areas in which it is prominent have an issue with it.

Certainly, Jo’burg ratepayers in the comfortable suburbs don’t want spray paint squiggles on their high walls, but surely even they are more concerned about issues such as potholes and roadworks, trash collection and the continuing billing disorder than they are about graffiti?

It looks like the mayor felt some pressure to come up with something he could use to show how firm and strong he is, so he reached for what came first to mind – and it was a decidedly suburban, middle-class, knee-jerk issue that was utterly irrelevant to the majority of Johannesburg’s inhabitants.

Keep the powerful accountable

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